I'm most recently a writer. In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot. As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades. An unwilling transplant from the South, twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US. Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect. When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do. Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
J.D. Haynes is a purely fictional character, although I admit he bears a resemblance to several of the truly good men I've been privileged to know. His words, however, are completely unique to him. When I first saw them on my computer screen, I thought surely they must be some quotation I'd learned way back in English Lit, but a Google search produced no such quote. I'm sure they must have been inspired by something I heard somewhere in the dim past, but until I learn otherwise, these wise words will be attributed to former University of Virginia professor J. D. Haynes of Valley Rise Farm.
We never really meet J.D. Haynes. By the time Hearts Unfold begins, he's been confined to a nursing home following a devastating stroke. But we learn about him through the eyes of those who knew and loved him. His influence is felt through his daughter Emily, and his wise words lay the foundation for many of her choices. In my head, I picture J.D. as a true Southern gentleman, a soft-spoken, scholarly man who had unexpectedly found true love in middle age and taken a bold step into a new life, one that led him to not only joy and discovery, but terrible suffering as well. That he had taught his daughter the importance of daring to risk failure and learn from the experience said a lot to me about his faith and spirit.
J.D. came from a family of adventurers, Englishmen who came to Virginia much as my ancestors did, willing to risk all for a different life in a new world. He did not hesitate to start his life over, to leave the familiar for the challenges of the unknown, when he married and moved to a rundown farm without any preparation for either marriage or farming. In that respect I can identify with J.D. because I've taken the same kind of leap, moving hundreds of miles from home (several homes, in fact) and reinventing myself to fit the opportunities in a new place. It becomes less terrifying with each move, and had I hesitated too long, I know the opportunities might have been missed.
I have to make the obvious connection to the book I'm working on now. There's real risk in taking a turn away from the familiar. What if my faithful readers don't like this one, what if it's not inspirational enough, or clean enough, or romantic enough? There are times when I feel my writing is being inhibited by these possibilities, and I have to stop and give myself a little lecture on the nature of risk. J.D was right. Failure will be in the hesitation. If I hold back, if I allow the work to be influenced by what someone might like or dislike, the book will never get written, not in the way it would if I stay true to the story it wants to tell. Risk involves letting go, having faith and being willing to accept the results while never taking the risk guarantees failure. If you don't start running, you'll certainly never finish the race.
There is always some logical motivation for risk, as least in my experience--monetary need, wanderlust, or the irresistible allure of a challenge. The payoff of success, a better life, new friends or finding a talent you never believed you had make risk worth considering. No one likes to fail, but what does not kill us makes us stronger, right?
Last night I went to bed wondering if I might be out of my element with this book. This morning, after reading over yesterday's work, I decided I may not be after all. It's worth the risk, the time and the effort to find out. I was reminded of J.D. words. I think I'll tape them to the wall by my desk, because I'm pretty sure I'll need to be reminded again, and again, and again, before Shannon's Daughter is done with me.